March 11th, 1990

Our new president, Patricio Aylwin Azócar, has just been sworn in.
Finally, the day that we have been working towards for more than a decade has come to pass.
It seems like I should be thrilled. Elena and I and our families have been through so much in the past 16 (almost 17) years. And I certainly do feel some sense of relief. Relief that our daughter will be able to live in a democratic nation, not one ruled by a dictator.
Even so, there is still a lingering fear. I fear that what has happened in the past may repeat itself. Especially since it seems clear that Pinochet and his cronies will remain visible, even with some form of power, for the foreseeable future. Pinochet leads this country through 16 years of fear and oppression, and the consequence for his actions? He becomes a senator for life. Honest, hardworking people have been exiled, tortured, and in some cases certainly killed, and this man sees himself as the savior of Chile. A savior to whom we should be grateful. What is worse, there are still people in this country who support what he did. I could see how someone could perhaps convince himself that the atrocities he has done are for the best, in order to live with himself. What I cannot see is how people who have lived in this country since the beginning of the regime can justify it to themselves, can lie to themselves about what has happened here. This, I think, is the real reason that I am not overjoyed. Yes, Aylwin, the candidate of the concertaci√≥n, has triumphed. But it was not a unanimous victory. People still voted for a right-wing, military supported candidate. Hell, some 44% of the Chilean people voted “Yes” to a decade more of Pinochet two years ago.
And so this day is bittersweet. Yes, I am happy that Aylwin has been elected. And yes, I still have hope for the future. But I still have fear. I am afraid that we will forget all that has happened. I am afraid that none of those who have committed such terrible wrongs will be brought to justice. I am afraid that I will not be able to live with the fact that my brother, Hector, will be remembered as a dangerous insurgent who deserved what he got. Or worse, that Hector will not be remembered at all, except by me. I am the only one left to think about him, and justice for him. I bear the weight of his memory. I am afraid that I will grow old and bitter under the strain. I am already old (turning 50 this year), but I am not as bitter as I could be (or even should be).
Will Aylwin, will anyone, see justice done for Hector and those like him? This is what I fear. This is what I will think about, even as those around me celebrate. This is what I, and others who have faced far worse than I, must think about in the coming years.

1 thought on “March 11th, 1990

  1. ssvolk says:

    I know just what you mean, Cristobal. This is a very bittersweet day – one we’ve worked for so long, and yet I had always hoped that Pinochet would go out reviled and hated, not smiling and triumphant. And there he sits as head of the army for another 8 years, always making sure that “his men” are protected. But, we take the victories we have won and push on from there, no? What is Rocio doing? She must be up to a million things by now.

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